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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Abu Dhabi has established itself as a cultural capital of the world

Over my travels I have seen that Abu Dhabi has found a place in the hearts of various culture lovers

Abu Dhabi has come to be known as a place travellers go to for arts and culture. Victor Besa / The National
Abu Dhabi has come to be known as a place travellers go to for arts and culture. Victor Besa / The National

Whenever I travel I always keep a keen ear out for opinions on Abu Dhabi. Like a roving ambassador, the positive feedback is supported, while false assumptions – these vary from women not being able to drive, to Abu Dhabi lacking a winter – I swiftly correct.

In the time I have lived abroad, I’ve noticed that the false assumptions regarding the UAE’s capital have lessened.

People often thought Dubai was the capital, or referred to it as “Abu Dubai”, but in recent years, I have found that throughout the course of my travels, the emirate has become increasingly known for its character. I’m proud to say that Abu Dhabi has come to be known as a thinking person’s destination – the place travellers go to for arts and culture.

A lot of this boils down to the Department of Culture and Tourism and the city’s various cultural organisations’ initiatives to project such an image abroad. I saw this on my latest trip to parts of Australia and Europe. In the Australian sporting capital of Melbourne, Abu Dhabi has indirectly become part of the cultural fabric of the city. For almost a decade, one of Melbourne’s major sporting venues was called Etihad Stadium. Recently, though, it has had a name change; the signage on top of the stadium, complete with complimentary images of the Abu Dhabi skyline, have been replaced with comic book characters – the place is now called Marvel Stadium.

“It feels weird, man,” says Sebastian, a former colleague of mine from Melbourne. “To be honest, when they first called it Etihad Stadium I also thought it didn’t sound right. But after you go to a few concerts and big football matches it just becomes part of your life in the city. You tell your friends ‘I’m going to watch the Foo Fighters at Etihad’.”

On the other side of the world, the presence of Abu Dhabi was less subtle. The spacious white couches, glass tables and delicious catering of the Department of Tourism and Culture Abu Dhabi pavilion at the Frankfurt Book Fair was one of the main attractions.

German publishers and book-lovers visited the stand to hear presentations on Louvre Abu Dhabi and perused copies of Auswahl An Ausspruchen Von: Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a compilation of the Founding Father’s insights translated into German, which was launched at the fair. Those who understand Arabic gathered around a speaker to listen to Sheikh Zayed’s thoughts on education, women’s rights and the importance of family from a CD of his orations.

Meanwhile, over in Holland, Abu Dhabi came out top as the destination DJs aspire to play in, as revealed by the hundreds attending the Amsterdam Dance Event, the largest gathering of the world’s electronic music community, which wraps up on Sunday. Discussions were held about trends sweeping the Abu Dhabi scene, as well as why they’re so keen to play here.

As a journalist from Abu Dhabi, I have been approached by young aspiring DJs about our club scene. Thanks in no small part to Creamfields, the international music festival that graces Yas Island each year, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the capital is already on the minds of artists drawing up their tour plans.

It all goes to show that Abu Dhabi is a destination for young and old and that it is well on its way to achieving its mission of being one of the cultural capitals of the world.

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